Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Mitch Dekker is in his 40s and helped raise the daughter, Ellie, he had with his high school girlfriend—whom he married and later divorced. Mitch has since been “married” to the Stone’s Throw Tavern, the family business he worked at and inherited to support his young family, giving up his hockey star dreams for a steady income. He doesn’t exactly regret his life choices, but Mitch would be much happier if he had the odd night off. Ellie is getting married and she wants to see her dad find happiness of his own.

Charlie Porterfield is 26 and a college graduate. He’s been in finance for a number of years, making decent money and generously picking up the tabs of his friends—who are mostly former frat brothers. When one of his prime portfolio picks goes way south, Charlie’s fired immediately, and his girlfriend, also a finance trader, dumps him; he’s got a day to move out of her apartment. None of Charlie’s so-called buddies will let him couch surf while he gets himself back on track, though, and Charlie’s super grateful an old camp friend, Amos, reaches back with an offer to stay in his spare bedroom. Amos is a schoolteacher who lives a fair distance from Charlie’s Wall Street life. Charlie’s not sad about leaving all that behind him. Recognizing how his “friends” treated him as disposable has lit a fire inside his belly; Charlie really wants to make big changes to find permanent happiness in life. He needs a job and he’s got his own ties to the new town—his college ex-girlfriend, Ellie, grew up there and her dad, Mitch, needs a new bartender. Charlie’s never bartended before, but he’s partied a lot over the years. How hard can pouring beers be?

Mitch isn’t best-pleased that the only decent applicant for his open position is Charlie, the pretty frat boy who hurt his precious Ellie’s heart years ago. The dude is all swagger, no knowledge. But, he’s persistent, and he isn’t afraid of long hours and hard practice. Plus, Charlie is definitely eye-candy and he knows how to talk with people and get them interested in fun things. So, Mitch takes a chance on Charlie and it pays big dividends. His connection to Amos leads to good suggestions about how to pack the Stone’s Throw in an LGBTQ-friendly way. And, Charlie’s organizational skills help Mitch see him in a new light—one of competence. During their heart-to-heart about Charlie’s break up with Ellie, Mitch sees the forward-thinking, self-sacrificing heart Charlie’s friends used to their own advantage.

Mitch honestly doesn’t want to find Charlie so appealing, but it’s been quite a dry spell for him, and damn if Charlie’s compact muscularity isn’t exactly his type. Add to that, Charlie’s people-pleasing submissiveness, and Mitch is a fly in the honey trap. For his part, Charlie hasn’t ever been curious about gay action, but he’s not averse. Spending time clubbing with Amos and his gay friends helps him see his own appeal through the gay gaze. Not only that, Charlie’s sensed the tension of Mitch’s own attraction and he’s turned on by Mitch’s interest, as well as his big body and commanding nature. Giving Mitch a green light opens a whole new chapter in Charlie’s life. It’s refreshing to have a partner that takes charge and finds him perfect as he is—not too short or too frivolous. He’s a serious guy with a giant heart, and Mitch is a good steward of hearts, even if making it with his daughter’s ex who’s 20 years younger is still a big hurdle. Especially when Ellie’s wedding gets derailed and she needs Mitch—and Charlie—to help save her big day.

This is the third book in the Single Dads Club series, and features a new romance for the final uncoupled member of this small-town social club. The forced-proximity, save-the-wedding twist really put this story into rom-com territory, but I did enjoy the development of this age-gap, difficult history romance. Mitch and Charlie are both sweet guys their friends are rooting for to find happiness. It was fun to see the previous “single dads” give Mitch advice on how to proceed with Charlie and his own life path. Charlie’s earnestness is endearing, and Mitch’s reticence belies his own fear of messing up another adult relationship.

The story isn’t without issues, from a logical reader standpoint. The drama surrounding Mitch’s future seemed a little extra, especially given his lifelong ties to Sourwood. I was proud of Charlie’s character for speaking his mind honestly and openly; he’s so brave. I was confused, though, that Charlie seemed to have no family? He makes a super-passing reference to them at one late point, but I know I’d be calling home immediately if I was imminently homeless, and he seemed to not even think of it. This was especially weird because he was begging folks on Facebook to take him in, and only Amos replied. I loved Amos, and I’m glad to see he will get his own book in a spin-off series, but it made Charlie seem especially bereft that he couldn’t find even a cousin to offer him a couch—and that he doesn’t remark on this at all made his whole situation feel more plot-convenient than real. It also felt super awkward that Ellie would invite Charlie’s frat bros to her intimate wedding? Like, why? They aren’t nice, and they were Charlie’s close friends, and how did she stay friends with them over the years of law school? Add in their behavior and I double-down on their presence being an unnecessary plot convenience.  Ellie took the news of Mitch and Charlie together inexplicably well, especially given the circumstances. I had expected some more fireworks, to be honest. There was less aggression there than between Charlie and his ex-pals, which seemed counterintuitive. And, sexy times during the pre-wedding prep? Not once but twice? Dudes, you have a WEDDING to cater, for your daughter. Zip it up until after the canapés are served. We’ll wait.

All in all, this was a nice wrap to the Single Dads series. All the non-single dads are great, and Mitch is the crème of sexy daddy bears, so it was fun to watch him melt for Charlie. If you like breezy age-gap romances, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

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